Friday, March 27, 2009

Sex and Suburbia, The Room

Sex and Suburbia, The Room
By Julie Stankowski

Am I the only one who has the “Room?” You know, the one that you can barely walk into, that’s full of junk and crap and tootsie roll wrappers and popcorn remnants behind the couch. The one you throw all of your stuff into when company is coming over and then just keep the door shut and pray nobody opens it. The one that has boxes of paperwork that have been sitting there since 1990 and you are afraid to even look at. The one that has 517 Ziploc baggies with different pieces to different kids’ games, but nothing goes together. The one that has the old TV that’s as big as the fat lady who sings. I hate that room! It gives me anxiety, angina and angst all at the same time.

I must clean up the “room.” I can no longer live with it. But the thought of tackling this project is so overwhelming that every time I even contemplate it, I think I need to hit the booze instead. How could this possibly have happened? How could I have let this small space become so out of control? Is it a metaphor for my life? Messy cluttered room, messy cluttered head? Can’t be. My life is good! So the “room” should reflect that, right? But where do I begin? And how do I begin without feeling like I’m going to throw-up? Maybe I should put on a suit of armor and pretend like I am on the attack and Not-No-One-Not-Nothing will stop me because I will be protected by impenetrable steel. Okay, that’s ridiculous.

But now that I’m 40, I’ve decided it’s time I grow up and start living like a responsible adult. That means that regardless of my extreme trepidation not only about what I will find in the “room,” but also about what I will do with all of the crap in the “room,” I nevertheless must deal with the “room.” I wish I could say it’s the last remnant of my forever childlike habits, but it’s not. I still throw my clothes on the floor, hit the snooze button 7 times and wake up at the last possible second to still have enough time to get ready and get out the door, buy birthday party presents an hour before the actual party, pout like my 4-year-old when I’m upset and, I still sometimes eat cereal for dinner. I procrastinate, I’ve been known to whine from time to time, I indulge myself with too much ice cream for a little person and I still occasionally change my outfit 15 times before I feel like I look good enough to leave the house. I think I still have about 1 million childlike habits. But I can only deal with one at a time. Today (and probably for 10 hours a day for the next two weeks) I will deal with the “room.”

I feel like I need some sort of stretching, strengthening or exercise routine before I cross through the doorway to hell and begin the long, tedious journey of turning the “room” into heaven instead of hell. I hate exercise, though, so that won’t work. Instead, I’ll have a glass of wine, put on a Natasha Bedingfield CD and just dive in. I’m scared . . .

Okay, I have been in the “room” for two weeks, I am still alive and kicking and I have managed to avoid having a nervous breakdown! Hooray for me! And hooray for whoever it was that first came up with the concept of smushing grapes and fermenting them into big barrels of wine. If not for that person, I may not be here to finish this epic story about the “room.” In fact, the next time I have to tackle some project that makes my stomach do somersaults, I will first buy stock in Robert Mondavi.

So it wasn’t easy, but I now have an almost bare room in which to create the fantasy playroom I always imagined for my kids. Getting to this point almost caused my husband (and my kids) to divorce me because of my absolute sour mood that lasted the entire two weeks of sorting, tossing and donating. I was mad at everyone (including myself) and everything for creating this monster of a space. Question: am I the only stupid person who, for the last 41/2 years, has continued to employ a nanny who is so lazy that instead of putting toys away in their proper places, dumps everything into red plastic cups from Costco, shoves the cups in a corner and then somehow thinks that leaving a room full of 87 red cups was actually doing her job? Finding all of these red cups made me see red and I was ready to kill her. This murderous feeling became even more intense when I had to start searching the house for the probable existence of additional red cups undoubtedly containing the missing cube from “Don’t Break the Ice,” the missing person from “Candyland,” the missing pieces to “Connect Four,” and the little white balls for the “Hungry Hippo” game. What was she thinking? I could not get one whole game together with all of its parts until I looked through the entire house! Put the contents of 6 red cups together and voila, you have a complete game. Wouldn’t you have wanted to kill someone? Especially someone you pay to help keep your house tidy? Are you getting the picture of why I needed my new best friend around, Robert Mondavi?

And then there was the issue of my husband (love him dearly, but . . . ). As I have mentioned before, I do not think the man has thrown anything away since he made enough money to purchase it in the first place. What is up with that? It drives me crazy (okay, I know there are probably 10 million things about me that drive him crazy, but if he wants to complain about it, he’ll have to start his own blog!). And even though I was single-handedly taking on the monumental task of dealing with the “room,” you would not believe what my husband said to me, “Honey, the only thing I ask is that you don’t throw anything away before showing it to me.” Are you frickin’ kidding me? Oh yeah, I’m just gonna lay all the crap out all around the house so when you happen to get a minute, you can give me the okay to throw away the empty Wii box, the 10-year-old $2.00 mouse pad coming apart at the seams and the 1992 issue of Fantasy Baseball magazine. Not. How am I supposed to do this with my husband, the hoarder? Not to mention an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old who are completely unwilling to part with any of their things. “It’s special to me,” they say. “How is a Goddamn toilet paper roll special,” I think to myself, but don’t say out loud.

So that’s when I decided that I had to do most of the work in the “room” when my kids were in school and my husband was at work. What’s the saying, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you?” That became my little motto in my head and during the day, I threw away and donated like there was no tomorrow. I saved a few things here and there to show my husband for approval before they got trashed, just so he wouldn’t think I was actually doing what I was doing and sneaking everything out of the house. Task accomplished.

Next obstacle. Obtaining storage-type furniture to house the toys, art supplies, DVDs, books etc. Also must buy a new TV that is thinner than the big fat lady TV. No big deal. That’s what Ikea and Costco were created for, right? Wrong, according to my husband. He doesn’t want “cheap” stuff. Okay, shall I go to the Pacific Design Center and spend $10,000 for a kids’ room cabinet? I think not. And if I waited for my husband to shop around for cabinets and TVs, it would be 2010 before the “room” would actually be useable.

So again, devious girl that I am, I decided to buy the furniture, buy the TV and have everything installed and looking like a fabulously rich play room before my husband got home from work. Because the fact of the matter is, when he sees a finished product I managed to put together in the house, he actually likes it! But, oh my God, all of this sneaky-get-it-done-surprise-the-husband-and-not-wait-4-weeks-for-him-to-find-the-best-TV-for-the-best-price stuff can literally put me over the edge. It’s quite a task. And stresses me out to no end. And if people thought I was bitchy for the past two weeks, on this particular day, people would have thought I needed to drink an entire bottle of smushed grapes, ingest an entire bottle of Ativan and eat an entire pint of coffee Haagen-Dazs in order to calm down and let go of the complete raw nerve and crankmeister I had become.

Well, I’m happy to report that today, I have an awesome, neatly organized, very cute and totally functional playroom. The whole family is happy, including my husband! And I am no longer a raging lunatic mom with no patience. And I managed to avoid becoming a devil in the hell “room.” But I do feel like I need a vacation and three full days of sleep. So, I will go put on my PJs, throw my clothes on the floor, have a bowl of cereal for dinner and watch the Real Housewives on Tivo with my new BFF, Robert. At least I know my kids will be happily entertained in the heavenly playroom, where any and all red cups and any and all sizes of Ziploc baggies have been banned. And at least I can be proud of myself for growing up a little. I just hope I’m not 80 before I have enough energy again to deal with the other 999 childlike behaviors I still exhibit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sex and Suburbia, Tweezers and Vasectomies, What?!!!

Sex and Suburbia, Tweezers and Vasectomies, What?!!!
By Julie Stankowski

So, what should I write about today? Here’s what’s on my mind: tweezers, vasectomies and why I think God created Sundays.

Tweezers. A fantastic invention. For 40-somethings with hair growing out of the oddest places, this invention is right up there with the light bulb, Tivo, cabernet, Haagen-Dazs and babysitters. Without tweezers, you would be astounded by how many women would be strolling by you in Target with a 5-inch hair growing out of their chins. Seriously. I thought I was the only weirdo that kept a tweezer in my car. It was a secret, like I had some bizarre habit I couldn’t tell anyone about. But I got sick and tired of driving down the street, opening my little lighted mirror to put on some lip gloss and then being mortified by what I saw making its way out of my neck (ummm, why didn’t any of my friends mention this to me?). So, I decided to keep my secret weapon in my glove compartment (like purses and bathroom cabinets, I think women’s glove compartments contain a lot of personal information about them). Now, you will never see me at the grocery store with an unwanted goatee. I pull out of my garage and, in the sunlight, armed with my invention of the century, pluck away until my skin is entirely hair-free. I decided to come out of the closet and admit I’m an automobile-hair-plucker because in the last several days I have come to learn of four other women who are as a crazy as I and they too carry the same secret weapon in their glove compartments. So nice to know I’m not alone. Enough about tweezers.

Vasectomies. Another fantastic invention. That is, if your husband will even contemplate some surgeon messing with his special package! If your husband has had one, kudos to you. You are a lucky, lucky woman. But if your husbands are like mine, the second they hear the word, “vasectomy,” they get a look on their face as if they were being attacked by aliens, bitten by snakes and handed an extraordinarily high AmEx bill, all at the same time. They don’t want any more kids, but they refuse to have sex wearing a raincoat. As someone recently said to me (can’t remember who, but she must be one of my very smart friends), “It’s two damn days with a bag of frozen peas and you’re done!” Have we women not endured enough physical pain down there popping out 7+ pounds of flesh per baby to warrant us asking our husbands to spend two days with peas? They can mentally block out the peas and watch ESPN, Turner Classic Movies and do continuous mock baseball drafts on the computer. And for two full days they can be waited on hand and foot by their oh-so-appreciative wives. But I don’t think this stubborn group will budge. And once again, we wives have to take charge and deal with the preventing pregnancy thing. And explain to our grown-up husbands why the pull-out method doesn’t always work!

Moving on, let’s talk about Sundays. And forget religion. This has nothing to do with what religion you are. I believe God created Sundays for nutty, over-scheduled and exhausted moms. I believe that soccer games, baseball games, birthday parties and every other Sunday happening should be banned. I believe moms should have an absolute right to stay home in their pajamas on Sundays and do nothing but watch sports (or HGTV and the Food Network), read the L.A. Times from cover to cover, slave over the crossword puzzle, nosh and occasionally doze off. Yes, I know we’re not single anymore and I know we have children, but hey, even a mom deserves one day! One day! That’s it. Can’t we have a day?

Here’s how it goes. The fact that we moms must constantly “chit-chat” with other people is exhausting in and of itself. When you bump into someone you know, doesn’t matter whether you are at drop-off, pick-up, the grocery store, the gym . . . the routine is the same, “Hiiii! How are youuuu?” “Oh, I’m greeeaattttt! What’s going on with you???” Can you imagine what would happen if you deviated from the routine and when you saw another mom at drop-off, you completely ignored her because you weren’t yet awake enough to move your mouth and make sound come out? And when those moms saunter over to you and say, “Good morning, how are you, what’s new?” I’m thinking it may be considered gauche to reply, “Hi, well actually, I’m tired and cranky and I just don’t feel like ‘chit-chatting’ right now. I have a million things on my mind, my kids had what appeared to be a world championship wrestling match this morning which left both of them crying, I have to go home and clean-up my dog’s throw-up, I feel fat, ugly and bloated and like a big crab-apple that’s about to pop, and at this moment quite frankly, I don’t give two flying hoots about how you are or what’s new with you!” No, we cannot say how we really feel or what we really think. That would be rude and obnoxious. And someone would report us to the manners’ police. And we’d probably have no friends. And wind up on the preschool Black List. So, we must keep the smile pasted on our no-longer-wrinkle-free faces and provide the expected response, “I’m good, you?” Exhausting, I tell you. Simply exhausting.

I believe God knows this. And I believe this is why God created Sundays. A day where we moms should not have to dress and put on make-up. A day where, left alone with our families, we can say exactly what’s on our minds and not pretend to be Happy-Happy-Happy, La-La-La, 24/7. A day where we can sit on our butts and not feel like Lazy Lucys. A day where we can order in Chinese and not cook. A day where we can casually play with our kids and not have to rush off to ballet class or football practice. A day where we have all the time in the world to take advantage of tweezers and vasectomies.

Thank you, God!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sex and Suburbia, The Not-So-Secret Secret

Sex and Suburbia, The Not-So-Secret Secret
By Julie Stankowski

I’m very open about it. In fact, I tell everyone. The moms in preschool, the moms in elementary school, the rabbi, the neighbors, the grocery store clerk . . . I tell anyone and everyone who comments. I have a new fashion accessory. This accessory has become my new addiction. I just can’t get enough. I have many different styles and colors (more than I care to admit). Each day, I decide what mood I’m in (well, actually, the Hormone Monsters decide what mood I’m in, but that is a whole other story coming in another post) and I choose the perfect accessory to match the mood. Who should I be today? Roxanna, Danielle, Ginger or Faye (my personal favorite)? Just as some women can’t get enough Jimmy Choos, I can’t get enough wigs!

Okay, please don’t judge me or think I’m crazy (I am crazy, but in a normal crazy kind of way). And NO, THANK GOD, POO, POO, POO, KAYNAHORAH, I am not sick (at least not physically, mentally is up for debate).

So here are (the not-so-juicy) details about how I happened into the wonderful world of wigs. For most of my life, I had great, thick long hair (dark brown since law school when I couldn’t afford to color it any more) that I really liked (an absolute pain in the ass to blow dry and straighten, but totally worth it). About 3 and a half years ago, six months after my son was born, I started losing a lot of hair. Normal after having a baby, but it never stopped. It was raining hair in my house. Raining men: good. Raining hair: not so good. To make a long story short (as short as someone with chronic oral diarrhea can possibly make it), I felt like my thick hair had become as thin as a wafer cookie. I hate wafer cookies! Anyway, most people didn’t notice, but I was extremely self-conscious about it. So, I went to a wig store to buy those really expensive “real” hair clip-in extensions and then took them to the really expensive hair dresser so they would match my color perfectly. Okay, way too high maintenance, even for me. Back to the wig store - - didn’t know what I wanted to do about it, but ended up leaving the store wearing Mandy, a long dark brown wig that looked exactly like my hair. When I got home, my husband said, “Your hair looks great! Did you go to the hairdresser today?” And he was only standing a few feet away from me! My best friends said the same thing. Nobody had any idea it wasn’t my hair until I told them! I was shocked! They were shocked!

Well, what began as something I was totally freaking out about became something frivolously fabulous! By the way, no one could ever figure out why I lost so much hair (I think I now know every doctor in the state), but I’m happy to report that my hair is nice and healthy again! So that means no need for wigs, right? Wrong!

You have no idea how great wigs are! After Mandy, I bought Ginger, a very stylish and sexy bob, shorter than I would ever dream of cutting my own hair. The first time I wore Ginger in public, I got soooo many compliments; it was unbelievable. But I didn’t want to wear it all the time and my own hair was long. What to do? Tell people that I was wearing a wig. I’m too old to care (pretty much) what people think. Again though, nobody could believe it. I was asked who my hairdresser was more times than my kids scream, “Mommmmm” in a 24-hour period. I took “her,” as the wig store people refer to the “girls,” to Cabo on vacation. Who has to worry about humidity now??? Not me! My hair (well, Ginger) looked perfect every night.

I think it is the Carrie Bradshaw in me that has me hooked. Gotta be fresh and fun and stylish and sexy. I even bought a long blonde wig one day (think Jessica Simpson). The problem with that though, was my husband’s concern that if I wore it out with him, people would not recognize me and the rumor mill would fill up with stories about how people saw my husband out and about with some blonde! All of my other wigs, though, look like they could be my very own hair. And I think it’s fun for my husband. He never knows who he will come home to or go to bed with! How Sex and the City of me!

So now, when the Hormone Monsters strike, I can decide between my plethora of wigs or my now healthy real hair. Did I get up early enough (remember, I don’t play Name that Minute anymore!) to blow dry and iron my own hair or should I plop on a wig? It’s so fun. And a major topic of conversation. People stop me and ask, “Who are you wearing?” as if I were walking the red carpet. And every day, at least one person looks at me and asks if it’s my hair or a wig. “I can’t tell anymore,” they say with a look of sheer surprise. I have friends who ask me to go to their hairdressers with them so they can cut their hair exactly like a particular wig. And if you can believe this, I actually started a trend! I have five friends who have actually bought wigs too! But they don’t tell the world like I do, so I will keep their identities secret. You know all of the moms who are having clothing parties at their houses? Well, I think I should have a wig party! I’ll send invites entitled “Wigs and Wine!” Woo-Hoo!

And today, my daughter’s (totally adorable) teacher asked me if I had a room full of bald-headed mannequins wearing wigs. Noooo! That would be scary and creepy and weird. Noooo! Even I’m not that weird. “My wigs are in shoe boxes,” I told the teacher (with a few other moms around participating in the crazy wig conversation that seems to take place on a daily basis). We crack up about it all the time. And then I shocked the totally adorable teacher when I said that Mandy was in a Hello Kitty shoe box and Ginger was in a Spiderman shoe box and Faye (appropriately) was in a Hannah Montana shoe box. “No way!” she said laughing. “I thought for sure they’d be in Manolo Blahnik boxes all neatly lined up like a Barney’s display.” Well, bottom line, it would be fiscally irresponsible (and potentially pose a health risk to my husband, and in turn to me, upon the arrival of the AmEx bill) if I were to combine my wig addiction with a designer shoe addiction. And as much as I love Christian Louboutins, I love my “girls” more, at least for right now. Tomorrow who knows; I’m very fickle with my accessories. But today, I hope the “girls” are happy living in their Target bought kids’ shoe boxes.

And there you have it. The Not-So-Secret Secret!

P.S. The Hormone Monsters are real! And they will be highlighted in future posts! I don’t want to piss them off!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Sex and Suburbia, Name that Tune, Mommy-Style

Sex and Suburbia, Name That Tune, Mommy-Style
By Julie Stankowski

I can name that tune in 10 notes. I can name that tune in 7 notes. I can name that tune in 4 notes. Okay, name that tune!

Maybe I’m showing my age a bit, but do you remember that show? Name that Tune? Well, when I was getting out of bed this morning and getting my kids ready for school, that show popped into my head. Weird, I know. But I’ll tell you why. I think I’ve been playing Name that Tune with myself since my daughter started school. In my crazy life, however, the show would be called Name that Minute.

I can get my daughter ready for school in 90 minutes! You see, I used to set my alarm for like 6:00 a.m. I would get up and take a shower (a rare occurrence these days; no, I don’t mean showering in general, but rather showering before drop-off). I would do my hair (straightening iron and all) and do my make-up and get dressed in my “nice” sweats. I had to look decent for drop-off (okay, cut me some slack. I was a first-time mom and didn’t realize that no one gave a shit but me). So I was primped and perfumed before I even got Ally out of bed. At that point, I would still have 90 minutes to wake up my baby with sweet little kisses, pick out a cute outfit with matching accessories and do her hair in some adorable style that would take me almost 30 minutes to perfect (I’m not good at the little girl hair thing). Then, we would have a healthy and hearty breakfast, hang out and chat while I made her lunch, meander for a bit and casually head to school for a timely arrival.

Ummm, that was then, this is now.

I can get my daughter ready for school in 60 minutes! A couple of years, another child and a puppy later, I was getting really good at this game. No sweat! And humbleness notwithstanding, I eventually became a master at Name that Minute. So, I kicked it up a notch (kudos to Emeril).

I can get both kids ready for school in 45 minutes! Yep, I could. A little more rushed, a few less accessories on my daughter, but at least the kids were clean, dressed, fed and on time. Too simple!

Not one to take the easy way out, I had to challenge myself. Not to mention I needed more sleep. A lot more sleep! Being a mom is more tiring than watching the History Channel.

I can get the kids ready for school in 30 minutes! Okay, get them ready! Okay! Yeah right, here’s what it looked like:

Oh shit! Oh, crap! It’s 7:30! Oh, SHIT! Oh my God! I jump out of bed. I run into my daughter’s room, grab some clothes for her (apparently the extra sleep I had left me color blind and my raging hormones made me somehow believe it was summer and not winter and my daughter was handed a pair of plaid green capris two sizes too small for her and a pink polka dotted tank top) and I tell her to get dressed FAST! We’re gonna be late! I run into my son’s room and grab some more mismatched and inappropriate clothes and tell him to get dressed FAST (he’s only 4)! We’re (I mean “I’m”) really running late. I sprint back into my room, trip over the half-eaten doggy toy lying on the floor and brush my teeth (literally the only hygiene ritual I could possibly perform in the time allotted). I put a jacket on over my pajamas and a hat on over my bed-head hair (I looked like Ozzy Osbourne after a major relapse). I go back into my kids’ rooms and they are still in bed. Oh, crap! Shit! Fuck! (I think I may actually have said these words aloud at that point.) Ally’s going to get a tardy even if I drop her off in the carpool lane (like the loser parents who are too lazy to get out of their cars and actually walk the two minutes it takes to escort their second graders into their classrooms). I’m such a bad mom! My kids are still half-asleep zombies as I put their clothes on, brush their teeth and do their hair.

We make a bee-line for the kitchen where I grab two pop tarts and two water bottles for an elegant breakfast in the car. I’m such a bad mom! I haul ass to school (in my oversized Jackie O sunglasses to complete the haggard mom in PJ’s and hat look), pray that there is no motorcycle cop hiding in the bushes and realize I didn’t make lunch for either child. I’m a REALLY bad mom and I SUCK at Name that Minute! I get my daughter to school two seconds before the bell rings, give her a huge hug and kiss, a five dollar bill which is enough to buy lunch and some stupid piece of crap they sell at the student store (guilty mom must let poor daughter buy some worthless junk she somehow thinks is awesome) and tell her to have a great day! Oy, I feel terrible. My kids must be the only ones who did not have a nutritious breakfast and who had only minutes to get ready for school and who had to eat in the car and who had to wake up to a crazy, frantic, scary-looking mom whose ego got too big for her britches playing Name that Minute. What the hell was I thinking? LOSER! BAD MOM!

So now, in order to right my wrong, avoid a nervous breakdown before 8:00 a.m. and become a good mommy again, I am playing a new game.

It’s called Mommy Wheel of Fortune. In this game, there is a big, blingy-looking wheel with a rhinestone pointer as the spinner. Each slot on the wheel contains a different prize, all designed with the pampered mommy in mind. Here’s how the game works. You only get a chance to spin the wheel on the days you get up early (bright-eyed and bushy-tailed is also a requirement), get the kids dressed in color-coordinated, weather-appropriate outfits (that may be from Target but look like they could be in the Gap window display), make a yummy breakfast which is eaten in your very own kitchen, have quality morning interaction with your babies and make it to school on time, even if you drive under the speed limit. It’s the honor system. Oh, and I forgot, you must also have made a delicious and nutritious lunch which would not only taste good, but would not embarrass your child in front of his/her classmates (I still don’t get why fruit cups with fake cherries are embarrassing . . . but, anyway).

Should you accomplish the above task, you’ll feel like a great mommy again and will have earned the opportunity to spin the wheel. Will you land on: A day at the spa; A deluxe pedicure including a foot massage; A pass to order dinner in and not cook; A pass to take a nap; A one-hour shopping spree at Nordstrom; A Babysitter for Saturday night? (It’s your wheel! You make whatever prizes you want!)

Today, I hope I land on my personal favorite prize, a priceless Mom of the Day Necklace made by my talented children out of a piece of string and a huge construction paper star on which the kids wrote in pink and blue crayon, “WRLDZ GRAYTISSD MOMY.”